Dmitry Kulikov showed in Florida he has the skills to play a major role on defense. He's ready to do it in Buffalo.
The Sabres acquired the blue-liner from Florida on Saturday and announced he'll skate in the top two pairs. He's ready to slide alongside Rasmus Ristolainen or Zach Bogosian.
"Top-four defenseman is very prestigious," Kulikov said Tuesday on a conference call. "I’m happy to be that guy, and I’m happy to take on that responsibility."
Kulikov averaged 21:02 of ice during the regular season for the Panthers, and he jumped up to 25:09 during Florida's six playoff games while facing the Islanders' top line.
"I was happy they trusted me as a top-pair defenseman," he said. "I was happy with my performance. What I learned about my game is that I think I had another level of compete in me to help my team take another step."
Kulikov has been with the Panthers since they drafted him 14th overall in 2009, but he's ready for a new challenge in Buffalo.
"I want to grow," he said. "I'm just happy for a fresh start. Change is sometimes for the best."